This week TV viewers said goodbye to the sci-fi comedy extravaganza Futurama. Cancelled by Fox in 2003 before being brought back by Comedy Central in 2008, fans of the show have the painful experience of saying farewell twice to a much beloved, yet underrated show. In the wake of the finale, let's look back at the episodes that turned casual watchers into devout fans.
"Jurassic Bark"Over a decade after this episode aired for the first time, fans of the show are still reaching out for their tissue boxes. The episode tells the story of how Fry rediscovers the fossilized remains of his dog back when was still living in the 20th Century. The episode's infamous ending, which is arguably one of the saddest conclusions to any TV episode ever, shows just how capable Futurama can be at tugging at your heartstrings. Even if you consider yourself the manliest of the manly men (or women), you will use every facial muscle to fight back those tears.
"Roswell That Ends Well"
Time travel, grandfather paradoxes, and doing the "nasty in the pasty" are central to the plot of this episode that essentially sets up a whole slew of other storylines that have become part of the Futurama mythology. The episode is a perfect showcase of how Futurama balances gut-wrenching humor, emotional content, scientific hodgepodge, and geeky topics in a paltry 21-minute episode.
"The Devil's Hands Are Idle Playthings"While this week's final episode marked a fitting and conclusive decrescendo to the series, Futurama would have left on a perfectly high note if it had originally ended with "The Devil's Hands Are Idle Playthings" back in 2003. Fry, Leela, and Bender strike a deal with the Robot Devil and it all ends with a well-orchestrated opera which has every major character singing their lines. The episode left with a bittersweet moment as Fry and Leela's relationship took a step forward, leaving fans wondering what will happen next… until five years later.
"Luck of the Fryish"
How the writers of Futurama can pen episodes that can make grown men cry tears of laughter for most of the show, yet reduce them an emotional wreck by the ending is beyond comprehension. Watching Fry blindly embark on a quest to retrieve his lucky "seven-leafed" clover is cleverly conceived, switching between the past and the present to hilariously illustrate how badly Fry's luck has turned for the worse. But it's only until the very end when the truth is finally revealed that the show sucker punches you in the gut with a very emotional family moment.
"War Is the H-Word"Where to begin with an episodes riddled with such comedic high points? First, the crew of the Planet Express go to war with the "Brain Balls" (aptly named because they have a lot of brains, and a lot of chutzpah). Second, the show deftly pays homage to M.A.S.H., Starship Troopers, and Stripes. Then, they play with Zapp Brannigan's sexuality when he becomes attracted to a cross-dressing Leela. But the episode's memorable moment has to be Zapp's David Letterman-esque countdown of Bender's Top 10 Most Utterly Used Words.
"Anthology of Interest II"
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Futurama's second attempt of compiling a trio of short stories showed just how creative the writers can be with pop culture references. "I, Meatbag" is an obvious nod to Isaac Asimov and ponders what would life be like if Bender were human. The robot's hedonistic tendencies is comedic gold, as well as his disturbingly glorious end. "Raiders of the Lost Arcade" taps into the video game culture of the '80s as Fry imagines what life would be like if it were more like game of Space Invaders. Lastly, "Wizzin'" is a straight-up parody of The Wizard of Oz and shows what it would be like if Leela found her home.
"Amazon Women in the Mood"It's amazing how a simple half-hour show can have such a sprawling plot. The episode starts with Kif and Zapp Brannigan attempting to set a double date with Amy and Leela, and ends up with most of the Planet Express crew trapped in a planet inhabited by giant Amazon women who just need a little love. Zapp's channeling William Shatner while singing karaoke, the guys laughing at the idea that women's basketball is better than men's basketball, and watching the simultaneous pained and ecstatic faces of Zapp and Fry at the prospect of death by "snu snu" are just a few highlights in an episode brimming with funny moments.
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December 22, 2006 10:12am EST
The Good Shepherd is billed as the story of how the CIA began but it is really the fictional story of Edward Wilson (Matt Damon) and his involvement in the first covert wing of the CIA. The story moves back and forth in time from when Edward is a literature student at Yale and a member of the secretive Skull and Bones club through the days following the Bay of Pigs in the early ‘60s. Edward is recruited into intelligence work at the beginning of World War II and learns the dark art of spying and espionage from the British. Meanwhile his personal life takes a back seat to his service for his country including alienating his wife Margaret “Clover” Wilson (Angelina Jolie) and their son. He is never home enough to effectively deal with the family problems his absence creates. By the end of the film as the twin disasters of the Bay of Pigs and his broken family unfold--and blame must be assigned--Edward ends up being a metaphor for the modern US intelligence service. Damon who has made a franchise out of playing the spy/assassin Bourne plays a very different kind of spy in The Good Shepherd. Wilson is a boring controlled buttoned down spy who is unfortunately more like the real thing than what we see in the movies. Damon does an excellent job however especially in those moments when he realizes he has screwed up. The actor stays controlled but finds a way to let the audience glimpse the pain of a man who has spent his life keeping his emotions and thoughts under wraps. Jolie is almost too luminous for the part of Edward's hapless wife. She is a bright spot in the movie as she transforms from the sexy/feisty Clover to the medicated/angry Margaret. Newcomer Eddie Redmayne also does a good job as the grown up Edward Wilson Jr. The rest of the cast is peppered with excellent performances from top-flight actors including William Hurt as a menacing intelligence heavy; Michael Gambon (Dumbledore in the Harry Potter series) as a British intelligence officer who’s fed up—and even De Niro himself as a general who’s the driving force behind the CIA’s beginning. De Niro captures the nature of the gray-flannelled spy but seems to get bogged down with material unable to craft a tight compelling film. The Good Shepherd is long and feels long with some of the transitions too abrupt. The subdued colors evoke the period of the film as well as play into the monotony that is intelligence work. But the problem with monotony is that it’s boring and boring is not something a movie should be. There are some incredibly intriguing scenes however and the film will certainly speak to any of those with genuine interests in the hardcore spy genre--obviously De Niro being one of them--but like its subject matter Shepherd will probably be too elusive for the casual viewer. De Niro seems much more comfortable in the details but less interested in keeping the story gripping. Ironically this is the exact opposite of the main character Edward Wilson who keeps his eye on the big picture but misses the small moments he should have noticed.